New book debunks environment, health myths
IPN Press release
From 23-25 June 2004, environment and health ministers from 52 countries will gather under the auspices of the World Health Organisation for a meeting called “The Future for Our Children” in Budapest, Hungary. The ministers will negotiate regulations to protect people, especially children, from environmental health risks.
In a new book – Environment & Health: Myths & Realities – 10 expert scientific contributors analyse key environment and health issues being discussed by the WHO. The book challenges the conventional wisdom that human health problems (cancer, disease and even death) are being caused and exacerbated by modern industrial society.
The book offers an overview by scientific experts of the available scientific evidence concerning the impact of pesticides, dioxin, nitrates, radiation, endocrine disruptors, global warming and the precautionary principle on human health.
The contributors show that many environment and health risks have been exaggerated, to the detriment of scientific research and public policy.
Environmental scare stories in the media have been unbalanced and thus are psychologically and economically detrimental to the average person. When scare stories are used to influence government regulations, the result is frequently economic harm, a lack of prioritisation with few or no benefits for people. (introduction)
The book specifically illustrates that:
· On balance synthetic pesticides are beneficial to humanity, enabling better nutrition and health, and environmental protection. Consumers and society have been distracted from measures, such as more consumption of fruits and vegetables, proven to reduce cancer. (Chapter 1)
· The effects of “gender-bending” chemicals -– endocrine disruptors –- on humans have not been established by science, but scientific evidence refuting the idea has been under-reported by the media. (Chapter 2)
· Dietary nitrates (caused by agricultural fertiliser run-off) pose no threat to human health. They do not cause “blue baby syndrome” (which is prevented by following simple hygiene rules), cancer or other health effects. ( Chapter 3)
· Expenditures to prevent low doses of radiation are unnecessary and a wasteful use of society’s resources, especially since natural radiation levels are far higher and cause no human health problems. (Chapter 4)
· Fears over dioxin poisoning are now totally unjustified, and no unequivocal epidemiological evidence exists to link dioxin to cancer, reproductive or immune effects. (Chapter 5)
· Vector-borne diseases are extremely complex, and global warming alone is unlikely to cause these diseases to spread to new regions or to exacerbate malaria in endemic regions. Eliminating malaria altogether is a far more important priority. (Chapter 6)
· Overall human mortality from heat waves caused by global warming is not likely to increase. In fact, cold weather causes far more deaths than hot weather. The effects of warmer temperatures are generally beneficial in the medium term and for most of the world (Chapter 7).
· The precautionary principle reflects a general “chemo-phobia” in society, but is not a reliable guide for decision-makers. In fact, the precautionary principle may increase – not reduce – risks because it does not sufficiently direct scarce resources to the most serious risks. (Chapter 8)
The contributors share a mutual concern that science is being undermined by activist pressure groups which care more about media coverage than protecting human health and achieving environmental protection. While governments increasingly rely on science for decision-making, politically correct science has skewed decision-making in the wrong direction. The contributors believe that regulations based on environmental health myths could lead society astray, exacerbating other imminent health and environmental risks.
“If countries are to prioritise efforts to promote human health and sustainable development, risks must be evaluated relative to one another,” said the book’s co-editor Julian Morris. “The risks for humans who live in poverty are different, and generally far greater, than those that result from modern technologies and modern industrial society.”
“The relationship between prosperity, health and environmental protection is a positive one,” said co-editor Kendra Okonski. “Rather than focusing on the negative consequences of modern life, we should discuss why people in wealthier economies are healthier, living longer and happier lives. Children in Europe and around the world deserve this future.”
Bruce N. Ames –- Professor in the Graduate School of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, USA
Lois Swirsky Gold -- Director of the Carcinogenic Potency Project and a Senior Scientist, University of California, Berkeley, USA
Stephen Safe –- Distinguished Professor of Veterinary Physiology & Pharmacology at Texas A&M University, director of the Center for Environmental and Rural Health, USA
Zbigniew Jaworowski –- A multi-disciplinary scientist and professor emeritus from the Central Laboratory for Radiological Protection in Warsaw, Poland
Dr Hans E. Müller –- Chemist and physician, former director of the Public Health Laboratory in Braunschweig, Germany
Dr. L’hirondel –- Medical doctor, practicising specialist in rheumatology at the Regional and Hospital Centre at Caen, France
William Keatinge –- Medical doctor, Emeritus professor, School of Medicine & Dentistry, Queen Mary & Westfield, London
Paul Reiter –- Professor, director of Insects and Infectious Diseases Unit at Pasteur Institute, Paris, France, and researcher for 22 years for US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. J.C. Hanekamp –- Medical doctor, and director of Heidelberg Appeal, Netherlands
Lucas Bergkamp –- Medical doctor, lawyer and professor of environmental liability law at Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands
Environment & Health: Myths & Realities
Edited by Kendra Okonski and Julian Morris
Publisher: International Policy Press (a division of International Policy Network)
published June 2004